Gender Bias in the Workplace

I came across this interesting article in the New York Times: Before That Sex Change, Think About Your Next Paycheck.

You might expect that anybody who has had a sex change, or even just cross-dresses on occasion, would suffer a wage cut because of social stigmatization. Wrong, or at least partly wrong. Turns out it depends on the direction of the change: the study found that earnings for male-to-female transgender workers fell by nearly one-third after their gender transitions, but earnings for female-to-male transgender workers increased slightly.

As a cisgendered female who has always worked in traditionally male jobs, I find this interesting, but not surprising.

I was also amused (but not surprised) by the last two paragraphs:

Ben Barres, a female-to-male transgender neuroscientist at Stanford, found that his work was more highly valued after his gender transition. “Ben Barres gave a great seminar today,” a colleague of his reportedly said, “but then his work is much better than his sister’s.”

Dr. Barres, of course, doesn’t have a sister in academia.

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Transition at work, the dilemma

I know that most of the readers here have their own issues with transition at work, one of the more tricky parts of transition.  My particular situation is a bit complicated.  As most of you know, I came out to my boss around the middle of June, and he was supportive of my issues.  I told him at that time that I would eventually tell everyone else that works there, the other 5 employees.  And, as you know, I did tell them toward the end of July.   Now, everyone at work knows about me and I’ve been relaxing a lot more and not trying to hide the transition developments at work, they all seem to be OK with it so far, but they haven’t actually seen Amber fully yet.  After my appearance at the theater and the resulting fallout, I’ve been a bit more cautious about pushing my transition at work.  The problem is that our customers don’t know about me, and if the reaction from one of the workers at the theater is any indication, some of them would not want me to come to their place of business as Amber.  The other problem is that our business depends on the relationship with our accounts, they can go to another company like ours any time the want to, there’s plenty of competition for the business.   So, if I cost us an account because of my transition freaking out the owner of the business, the company I work for loses money.  Not good for my job.  The boss says that he’s supportive of me and my transition, but if it affects his business, the bottom line becomes more important than my transition, or my job, probably.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

If I transition at a natural pace, as my body changes, people see it and deal with it.   Of course, that takes just short of forever.   If I just start showing up at the accounts presenting as I would choose to do, I risk damaging the company’s income, and thus, my job.   I think about this a lot when I’m working at a place that I go to enough that they recognize me, how am I going to deal with things like going to the ladies room at the place, when they knew me from before the change?  That may be the biggest issue, even if my new appearance doesn’t freak them out.  I haven’t come up with a workable solution to all this yet, short of getting a different job where I can start as Amber, and that’s really impractical and unlikely at this point in time!  What’s a middle aged girl to do?

That Landmark Congressional Hearing.

Well, Congress heard from the transgender community directly for the first time ever this week. If you missed it on C-SPAN (I did), Donna Rose has audio of the hearings here. If you’d prefer to read it, NTCE has transcripts here.

It’s all food for thought. Enjoy.

I told the boss!

Hi all,

Today, I told my boss that I have Gender Identity Disorder.  It was kinda scary, but I needed to do it sooner or later, and the right opportunity came up.  I had a laser treatment on Monday and I think the doctor used a bit too much power.  My face and neck has big blochy spots on it and a couple of places blistered a bit.  Anyway, he asked me what happened to my face and I told him “this is what happens when the doctor uses a bit too much power on the laser”  “Laser?  What’s the laser for?” he asked.  I said “facial hair removal, I’m having all my facial hair removed.”  We went on to discuss the service calls for tomorrow and I was thinking, “you dummy, it’s the perfect time to tell him!”, so I went into his office and sat down and proceded to tell him about my GID.  He asked me a few simple questions and I gave him basic answers, no sense in complicating it at this point.  I told him that I hoped this wouldn’t affect my job because I like the job.   He said that he didn’t have a problem with it, he likes the work I do for him.  So, we’ll see how the summer goes now that he’s aware of this aspect of me.  It’s one thing for him to know what’s going on, it’s another thing to see it developing.  I’m hoping that by taking it slow, they’ll be more accepting of me as things change.

Amber

Educating the World – Person to Person

I had a rather cool experience recently which showed me how small the world is – and how the right approach can cause people to be accepting even when you don’t expect it. My friend Abby suggested I share it with you all.

It all started one day at work – I was at lunch with my boss, co-worker G. and my trusty retirement-age volunteer worker D.

G. was talking about practicing guitar with his Tucson-based death metal band the night before and his musical history and aspirations. After some time, D. said to G. “You don’t happen to know a musician called something Blackstone, do you?”

G: “No, I don’t think so…”
D: “I forget his first name… something beginning with B…”
Me: “Bruce, perhaps?”
D: “That might be it. Yes, because the interesting thing about him was that he was in the paper recently…”
Me: “Oh, yes – I know him.”
D: “Yes, the paper wrote about him – he came out as a cross-dresser. So, how do you know him?”
Me: “Um… oh, the paper my husband worked for wrote an article about the band he is in…”
D: “Maybe that was the article!”
Me: “Oh, no… you read the recent one about the IFGE conference. The other one was back last year some time.”
D: “Oh, okay. Anyway, he does wonderful cabinetry. He did our whole kitchen. Very nice guy.”
Me: “Yes, he is.”

And that might have been the end of it. Except that, of course, it wasn’t. On reflection, I sent this email to D. after he’d left for the day:

You might be amused by this video that a friend of ours made, interviewing Bruce right after he’d talked to the Arizona Daily Star reporter

D. only volunteers for us one day a week, and he didn’t return my email, so I was a little apprehensive going in to work the next Wednesday. As I was walking up from the parking lot, I saw him, and he stopped to wait for me to catch up. He had a broad grin on his face and the first thing he said to me was:

“Thank you for that video link you sent me with Bruce in it. We really enjoyed watching that one! Yup, that’s our Bruce!”

I felt so happy to have been a part of helping educate the straight, white middle-class neighborhoods of Northeast Tucson!

On hearing of the reaction of D. and his wife, Bruce said:

Thank you for letting me know about [D. and J.] They are repeat clients of mine and great people.

Since I am becoming more and more out, I realize that eventually the knowledge of who I really am will inevitably creep into my work life sometimes. This has caused me a little bit of concern because I am self employed and loss of income can be frightening … so far as I can tell there have been no consequences to my business by my being out. So , thank you for letting me know about [D. and J.] – it’s also good in that [they] are now far less likely to have a negative reaction to other trans people.

The message I hope to get across is that it is truly worth it to share your true selves and those of your friends with others, even if you think they may not be accepting. Their reaction will often depend upon your demeanor as you talk to them. I tried to be as matter-of-fact as I could be, presenting the fact that I knew “that side” of Bruce as perfectly normal and natural. Whether you are yourself transgendered, or a SOFFA, you have a role to play, large or small, in educating the rest of the world.

It’s all over when I go out thinkin’

who am I ?

what am I ?

how am I ?

Explain. Explain. Explain. I sometimes get tired of having to explain everything I do.

I chatted with a guy on line today, and, for the 15 minutes, or, so, we chatted he was nothing but questions. How this. Why that. It was all I could not to be completely honest with him in answering the questions. Luckily, for me, I was in a mood to tell it like it is, and, maybe not so lucky for him he was on the recieving end of my “why must I always have to explain this” rant. If I was his first contact with a trans person, then, I may need to apologize to the trans community for my actions. Not that I was rude, but, I certainly didn’t hold back much.

He asked me if I was born a boy. Yes. Easy enough. He asked if I acted like a girl when I was little. This I said no to for the reason that I acted like a boy, instead. That threw him for a loop. I explained that even though I knew myself to not be a real boy I had to act like one if things were to appear normal. Expressing my feminine desires were not to be tolerated in our house. Christians don’t do that. He asked if I was a total woman. No on this one too. For the reason (explaining) that I haven’t had any surgery that would prove otherwise. I have had an orchiectomy, but, alas, women don’t have penises (do they?). He asked why I would go through all “this” to not have surgery and be complete. Why not just stay a boy? Good fu*^ing question, genius, is what I should have said, but, I simply explained how I didn’t want to kill myself, that I don’t have that kind of cash lying around, and, the last thing I want to do is travel to wherever in hopes of getting MAJOR surgery at a discount price because I didn’t have enough to go to someone more qualified that would give me plumbing that works properly. Not to mention there is a risk with any surgery of that maginitude, period. I freely admit to the fact that SRS scares the complete SHIT out of me. Would I still do it? Yeah, I reckon so.

The whole explaining thing has really been on my mind for the last (ever), because it is such a humongous burden we, as a community, are linked together by. And it isn’t that I have to explain everything I do, but, in certain situations when I have to explain why people shouldn’t touch each other like that, or, why I go through what I do to be comfortable when it possibly risks the comfort of the people surrounding me. There are times when I don’t exactly feel invisible, but, I certainly don’t feel as if I am inconveniencing, or, risking the comfort of, people around me to see me for who I am. If they feel that way, then, those are their feelings. Not mine. There is no relation in my mind.

I am rambling big time at this point…..The other day at work while getting banks ready before the store opened I asked to exchange some bills for some change. A supervisor (not normally in there at this time) chimed in, jokingly, with “yeah, give him some change. he just needs some change (laughing)”. I froze as he handed me the change I asked for. What was probably an innocent pronoun error was maginified as it was heard by 3 other co-workers who surely already know that I am something they may not exactly know the word for. Innocent or not it was an awkward situation, and, I plan on having a talk with the supervisor tomorrow at work just to explain how he may want to work on his pronoun usage in the future, and, if he could that would be just super!

Not to be outdone a similar situation happened the next day as we were having a plant sale outside on a day it was raining for most of the day. (Rain + wind + fine hair= disaster..FYI). As I asked a woman if she was next in line she replied with a “sir, can you please help me with something out in the yard?”. “Me?”, I said. “yes, sir. can you tell me about blah blah”. She went to repeat a few times to her sister that “this gentleman” is going to help me with the hanger, as we were walking away. She managed to squeeze in a few more he’s by the time we were done with her order, and, I can honestly say she could not have left soon enough. My sour mood of late can be directly related to the two times in which I, looking back, allowed people to not see the real me somehow. That troubles me in a way I am still working towards putting my finger on. ( am I not proud enough of who I am to correct someone the first time so as not to let it happen again? )

Thankfully, later on during the plant sale two women approached the table with a warm friendly glow about them. It was the happy feeling a daughter has at a plant sale with mom, I guess. The daughter looked me in the eye and told me she was 6’1″, and, she wanted to know how tall I was. We instantly started talking about getting clothes that fit when her mom jumped in and told me that she has heard all the women in Germany were apparently very tall, because that is where to get clothes for tall women. In a matter of an hour I had gone to questioning my existence to feeling the warmth that life has to offer when who I am is just that. I am just as I am. And there is no damn explaining anything.

I try not to think about things like all this too much, but, it is often impossible, for me, not to think about who you are, and, how it is people see you. To fall into the trap, if even for an instance, of judging your worth to other people to that of your own worth can, and, often does, get me into trouble. Funny, in controlled environments I am open to talk about who I am and reveal personal information without a problem, but, put me out in public where I live my life and I clam up like I don’t know what to say, or, worse yet, feel as though what I have to say isn’t worth saying.

This is what I get for being in such a good mood last week, I supose.

Good night. And, good luck.

Karen

At a Crossroad

I’m beginning to think that I reached another crossroad in my path that I seem to be delayed at. With just moving back with Vicky and the kids, I’ve slowed down to make the transition easier on them and for the kids to get used to my new look. This delay seems to have me feeling more anxiety as of late. I’m finally starting to use a touch of makeup at home know. I have been wearing some tops around the house that I recently got and it’s been nice to be able to relax and be myself around my kids for once. I’m going to start the research of the local places to take care of my facial hair this week. This is an item that I needed nearly complete before I wanted to go fulltime, so I’ve been thinking of using this slow time to start laser hair removal, or electrolysis. This is a must for this summer. As for what else is on my list, I have not set any dates for anything else because I’m taking this one day at a time. This is the only way I know to handle everything right now. With everything that can happen being trans and the stress of coming out to others. I’m trying to just handle what I can today and move on. I don’t want to say that its going great, but I must say that it has been one of the most calm periods I’ve had in a long time. Without many of the stresses I once had I’ve been able to relax a little at home. I’m finally sleeping better and have had more mornings now that have been easier to get through. But I know this pinned up anxiety will need to be taken care of soon.

I seem to be at place that is comfortable and its scaring me some. I’m starting to see me delay things and it is getting to a point that I feel I need to be ready for the next step soon. The comfortable place is home with my kids. The scary part is although I have talked to my kids a lot in the last few years about the things I’ve went through, and they have been good so far, they have not seen me in person. I’m terrified of their reaction. One part of me say’s “Come on Michelle, this is when you feel the most comfortable with yourself, you’ll do fine!” and the other say’s “What happens if it don’t, will they still have enough courage and compassion to hang in there with all that could happen?”. I have shown them both pictures of myself and I haven’t had any bad reaction to anything of the things that I’ve talked to them about. Sure, that should give me comfort in knowing that, but something still is burning inside me saying to keep your eyes out, be ready, that it’s going to happen any moment. I’ve come to expect something to go wrong just when I think things are going well.

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